Would Bergdahl still be held captive if not for the VA scandal?
Secretary of Defense Hagel appears a bit confused by the word "quickly". After 5 years and multiple releases of Taliban commanders and Gitmo terrorists, this isn't quickly.
But I wonder what the time overlap between the decision to make the deal and the VA scandal was. Would Bergdahl still be held captive if Obama's poll numbers weren't taking a beating over the abuse of vets?
The United States found "an opening" and acted quickly to save U.S. Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl's life, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said Sunday.
"We believed that the information we had, the intelligence we had, was such that Sgt. Bergdahl's safety and health were both in jeopardy and in particular his health deteriorating," Hagel said. "It was our judgment that if we could find an opening and move very quickly with that opening, that we needed to get him out of there essentially to save his life. I know President Obama feels very strongly about that, I do as well."
Obama, flanked by Bergdahl's parents at the White House on Saturday, praised the diplomatic officials and troops who helped secure Bergdahl's release.
"While Bowe was gone, he was never forgotten," the President said.
So we're not even pretending that this isn't a photo op. What exactly is Obama taking credit for here? Releasing Taliban commanders for a US POW after 5 years?
It might be necessary, but you don't do the end zone dance for it.
Mr. Hagel provided few details of how the renewed talks with the Taliban came together, though he repeatedly credited and thanked the Qatar government.
The Qatari regime is entangled with Al Qaeda and Islamic terrorists around the world. But at least Hagel knows who his masters are.
Also unclear is how Bergdahl fell into the hands of the Afghan militants. When a reporter asked if Bergdahl had deserted, Hagel didn't answer directly.
"Our first priority is assuring his well-being and his health and getting him reunited with his family," he said. "Other circumstances that may develop, they will be dealt with later."
In 2012, Rolling Stone magazine quoted emails Bergdahl is said to have sent to his parents that suggest he was disillusioned with America's mission in Afghanistan, had lost faith in the U.S. Army and was considering desertion. Bergdahl told his parents he was "ashamed to even be American." The Associated Press could not independently authenticate the emails.
We're not discussing it because it undermines the narrative. Rolling Stone is anti-American. Some of the material in the emails is the usual grousing, some is uglier, but Bergdahl may have been suffering from PTSD at that point. By that account he didn't fit in, he was part of a dysfunctional unit and his father was a bad influence on him.
And the Gitmo prisoners Obama released...
Although the five men have each been in prison for at least a decade, many believe they still have significant influence within the Taliban because of their contributions during the group’s formative years. The last time a high-level Taliban official was released from Guantanamo, in 2007, the detainee, Mullah Abdul Qayyum Zakir, returned to Afghanistan and took the reins as the organization’s director of military operations.
Like Zakir, the five detainees released Saturday and handed to the Qatari government had formal government jobs when the Taliban ruled Afghanistan from 1996 until 2001.
The detainees were among the most senior Afghans still held at the prison:
•Abdul Haq Wasiq, who served as the Taliban deputy minister of intelligence,
•Mullah Norullah Nori, a senior Taliban commander in the northern city of Mazar-e-Sharif when the Taliban fought U.S. forces in late 2001
•Khairullah Khairkhwa, who served in various Taliban positions including interior minister and had direct ties to Mullah Omar and Osama bin Laden
•Mohammed Nabi, who served as chief of security for the Taliban in Qalat, Afghanistan, and later worked as a radio operator for the Taliban's communications office in Kabul
•Mohammad Fazl, whom Human Rights Watch says could be prosecuted for war crimes for presiding over the mass killing of Shiite Muslims in Afghanistan in 2000 and 2001 as the Taliban sought to consolidate their control over the country.
But VA scandal management is a messy business.